Using whiteboard applications in the classroom – Doceri and EduCreations

The first question that needs to get an answer is, why and how would you use whiteboard applications ? Well, the iPad is making serious inroads into the classroom and that has to start with how the teacher is using the technology. I would suggest that it is a good idea that a teacher that wants to use the iPad in the classroom for teaching, as in with the students using them to use to enhance their learning, should first be using the iPad themselves. I have successfully used the iPad in the classroom for taking the class register, showing video clips and playing audio clips. These whiteboard applications allow teachers to extend and enhance the teaching of subjects in a couple of other different ways.

Out with the old and in with the new

Doceri for iPad

When I was in full-time teaching I had either a black board or white board and the writing tools to go with them and I was tied to the front of the class whenever using those tools. When a teacher is writing on a blackboard is true to say that the ability to see out of the back of your head is a good skill to have. However interesting the subject matter, in every class there is always a couple of children at the back of the class, that are not interested or just slightly distracted. What about if it was possible for you to do the same presentation, but instead of being with your back to the classroom while writing, be at the back of the classroom and be able to see everything that is going on. It seems like this would be a very useful way of working that could only enhance classroom management. Pupils will also benefit from having iPads to use in school .

Presentation applications for the iPad

I have looked at a couple of applications that are for presenting subject matter with the iPad. You have applications like Explain Everything , Screenchomp, EduCreations, Doceri, ShowMe and DoodleCast Pro, that can be used to show the students the lesson from your iPad over the air to the projector. You can use an Apple TV that will mirror whatever you have on your iPad. With these applications there are a variety of tools that are available, some of them are quite simple offerings, only including a way to add images to a single page and the ability to write or draw around and on top of these images. Some of them will allow you to add typed text and useful shapes like rectangles, circles and arrows. It would be nice if you were able to choose one single application that did everything, but more than likely you will probably find yourself using a combination of applications to use depending on what you are working on. For a particular lesson you might find that EduCreations has sufficient tools even though it is quite simple in its offering compared to something like a Doceri.

 

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Not all iPad Whiteboard applications are created equal

Explaineverything

Most of these applications offer a screen recording mode. With this you are able to pre-record your lesson. You could go with putting in the images and the basic explanations and fill in the rest while you’re in front of the class. Then again, maybe you want to have a flipped lesson where the fullest amount of information is put into the recorded presentation . This is then shared out to the students prior to the class and obviously they are expected to have watched it before being present in the classroom. Then in the classroom some of the activities that would traditionally be done as homework are acted upon. As part of these activities you could include polls or tests so that you would be able to see how much information had actually penetrated into the heads of your students. It seems like it would be a good opportunity to use group activities and more student centred learning by going down this flipped lesson route.

EduCreations

Teaching with iPad – EduCreations is a simple application that allows you to record your presentations or lessons. You can add writing and drawing to the slides. There is a bar at the bottom of the screen that allows you to either add a new slide or move between slides already created. You can add photos from either the camera, photo roll, Dropbox and also the web. Interestingly when you add them from web, you add the URL for the website to the search bar and the application goes off and searches just for images on that site. You don’t get to see the whole of the webpage with all of the text. Which is good, because that’s not what you’re looking for anyway. Just select the image that you want and it will be downloaded and added to your slide, where you can resize it as necessary.

Colours and lines in Educreations

For your writing and drawing, you don’t get many tools nor colours. You only get 10 colours available and you can’t even change the thickness of the line that you’re drawing with. There are only four choices of background available, although that is not terribly important, as you can bring in any artwork you want to anyway. On account of the fact that you can’t set the layer level of images, you need to remember this when you determine the order of importing the images into EduCreations. Otherwise one image could obscure others.

Record a lesson

You do get a recording tool that allows you to pause and to save your recording. It is possible to share your recordings through Facebook, Twitter and through a web URL. I’m sure that this recording and sharing will be sufficient for the quick and simple lessons. While you are creating your presentation or lesson you may miss the eraser tool. I would have thought that an eraser would be essential for an application like this. The delete tool has only two choices of either clearing the page, including the photographs or just clearing the ink. Otherwise you will have to go to use the backspace delete tool to remove lines or writing that you no longer require.

 

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The NoStylus verdict on Educreations

While I am sure that EduCreations is a tool that certainly has its uses when you want to create a quick lesson, it is quite simple in terms of what it has to offer. I would be inclined to only use this application sparingly when a less complicated explanation is all that is required.

Doceri

Of all of the applications in this genre I have found so far, this one is the most accomplished in terms of the number of tools available and the configurability of those tools. This is a fully fledged presentation application with recording facilities. The first choice you will need to make with this, is whether you want to use it just as an iPad tool, or if you want to use it to control your Mac. If you are not able to connect to your projector in the classroom with the iPad, but you’re able to do so with your Mac, then you would use the second of the options available. As you are working with this over the air to your computer, there is going to be a slight lag, but it is astonishing that it is so easy to control your desktop computer from your iPad.

Reasons for using a Computer too

You could have a presentation or an application that is not available on your iPad to be displayed to the class. You can also go into a drawing mode that will allow you to draw shapes, lines and pointers to give a lesson either on that application or the contents of that application.

You have very fine control regards the drawing, writing on and annotation of your iPad presentations. You get a timeline that you can scroll back through and edit after the fact. So that if there is a specific line that you would like to delete that you made earlier in your presentation, then you can do so. You can also add stop points and new slides. It is even possible for you to split up your presentation by adding a new page marker in the middle of what you have already done.

Backgrounds, pens and brushes

Doceri gives you a number of preinstalled backgrounds that are suitable for music, maths, art and there are even maps that are there for the geography teachers. If you want a custom background you can bring in artwork of your own and have it added to a list of custom backgrounds available. There is also a good range of drawing, writing and shape tools plus an eraser. The only tool that I found a little bit disappointing was the airbrush or spray tool. The effect that it gives is basically just a softer edge to your line and is really nothing like an airbrush effect. One of the things that I particularly liked with Doceri is that when you’re drawing you get a lovely smooth line and none of the jagged sorts of lines that I have seen in other presentation software.

The playback controls in Doceri

You can go back over everything that you have done in the timeline, be that writing or drawing on your presentation or adding images, stop points or new slides by sliding back through the timeline. So what you can do, is to have all of your images, annotations and highlights in place, go back to the start, click on record and you can add your voice over to the recording. All of the controls that you’ve already put in there with the stop points and new slides will be there ready, so you will get really fine control over your presentation while doing the recording.

Sharing your Doceri presentations

While you are creating your presentation you can click on the export button in the top bar and you’re given the option of emailing out as a PDF or opening the PDF in other applications. You can choose to have a new PDF page at each stop or at each slide and it tells you how many pages you will get depending on your choice. Or you can choose to export out the current image with posting to Facebook, Twitter or sending to your Photo Library. You can put the images onto the clipboard so they can be opened up another application that recognises images. You can do that with or without the background. I was successfully able to paste that image into Pages, the iWork application. I did try pasting it into some art applications, Procreate and Art Studio, but with no luck.

Costs of using Doceri

Doceri stylus

Any photos, PDFs and movies that are created with a Doceri will have a watermark and the same is the case when you are projecting via Airplay. To remove this watermark customisation it costs €4.49. You can also purchase a wired stylus that plugs into the headphones socket on your iPad. It looks like it could be quite useful and it gives you a writing end and an eraser end. If you don’t mind having the watermark in your presentations and other output, then you could use this application for free.

A sister desktop application

There is a Doceri desktop application, which is necessary if you want to use your iPad to control your Mac computer or Windows computer. This application costs $30 and there is a trial version available. If you think you might be using that configuration of having your Mac or Windows computer connected to the projector device, then it could be worth your while to pay for the software.

I have given this software a little bit of a test and I must say it is quite weird to see my iMac screen on my iPad and be able to control it. It even gives you a keyboard on the iPad so that you can do keyboard shortcuts. I used the keyboard shortcut of command and spacebar to bring up the Alfred application, just to test it. I was also quite impressed that Doceri desktop app also gave me a choice of which screen I wanted to look, which is obviously going to be very useful if you have a multiple monitor set up.

Drawing and annotating your Computer applications

Using the drawing mode on top of the iMac screen. I selected the drawing mode and those able to draw on the iPad and see that drawing appear on top of the iMac screen. I can also use the pinch gestures on the iPad to zoom in and still be able to use all of the drawing tools available. I also changed the background on the display. You would use this when you were making a presentation that was going to be partly showing what was happening on your computer and then going into a Doceri presentation. Good to have this versatility.

The NoStylus verdict on whiteboard applications for iPad

It is undeniable that there is a wealth of applications in this whiteboard, teaching and learning genre. Which one that you choose to use will depend upon your presentation needs. Doceri is the one that stands out from the crowd, in terms of everything that you can do with it. It is the most accomplished of them all by far. You might prefer to choose that one and do just about everything rather than having an arsenal of whiteboard applications to choose from for specific purposes. Personally, the way that I would go about it would be to have Doceri as the go to application for presenting, as it will present both from the desktop and also direct from the iPad. Certainly, it is about as fully featured as you can expect. On account of the fact that it has a monetisation plan in place, it might be more likely to stick around than the ones that are totally free. You do need to learn how to use and be proficient with Doceri, which is why it will be good to stick with the one application as your main choice.

Have a look at the article about creating iBooks Textbooks with iBooks Author .

Other Whiteboard Applications

Screenchomp

An application like Screenchomp is clearly aimed more towards the students. Maybe teachers will create information within the application, with the intention that the students use the lessons and then run with it to produce their own presentations. These presentations being either for assessment and proof of their own learning or for sharing with the rest of the class.

 

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Explain Everything

Within Explain Everything app you get a good set of tools, with lines and various shapes including stars and arrows. There is a good colour picker that can be used with the drawing options as well as with the text and the shapes. Within the drawing options you have five pen thicknesses and the choice of a harder line or a softer line.

When you’re using it in presentation mode it is nice that you get a choice of nine pointers, that can be used instead of having to draw things on your pristine presentation. It is possible to have a number of slides and you can record your presentations. I like the way that you can grab items within your slide such as a set of images and text to move, rotate and resize. This could be very useful when creating a presentation that can be recorded, just the same as it would be useful when you are presenting live.

ShowMe

This application has good sharing tools but is quite simple in terms of what you have in order to create presentations. It only gives you a limited number of colours and there is no option to change the opacity or a line width. You can tap and hold to move images around the screen, but you’re not able to freely rotate, apart from 90° increments. I like that with Explain Everything you do get the option to move object to the front or move to the back. You are able to pause recording of what you’re working on and when you’re finished, you just click on Save ShowMe. The presentations that you have shared go to the ShowMe website and you can also send them to either Facebook or Twitter. When you have shared them out you will get an email sent to you with the URL for your presentation. You may have to wait for a couple of minutes for the video of the presentation to be converted and ready for viewing.

 

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